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Health Secretary to Head Global AIDS Fund


WASHINGTON - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson has been chosen as chairman of the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, AIDS campaigners and sources said on Thursday.

Thompson, who will keep his job at HHS, will chair board meetings and work to raise the profile of the fund, the sources said. They said he would be formally named to the new job on Friday at the fund's headquarters in Geneva.

A spokesman at HHS said he could not confirm the report. AIDS activists said the decision was ironic. They have criticized President Bush for his decision to give the fund less than requested. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Bush announced a $15 billion, five-year plan to fight AIDS in Africa and Haiti, but designated only $1 billion of it to go to the fund.

The rest will be used in separate programs the United States will set up independently with 14 chosen countries.

"Secretary Thompson will be chosen to chair the board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS a day after a generous presidential AIDS initiative largely sideswiped the Global Fund," Asia Russell, director of international policy at AIDS lobby group Health GAP, said in a statement.

"If the U.S. is going to buy the chairmanship, they could at least use real money," she added.

The fund has asked for $3.5 billion a year from the United States. The United States gave $200 million last year and Bush's plan would add $200 million a year.

The current chairman of the board of the fund is Chrispus Kyonga, the former health minister of Uganda. A source said Thompson was the only candidate to replace Kyonga.

Dr. Richard Feachem is executive director of the fund. A British citizen, Feachem was a professor at the University of California at Berkeley before taking up the job.

The fund was set up in 2001 as a kind of global war chest against the three infectious diseases by the United Nations and the G8 group of industrialized nations. They noted that AIDS, TB and malaria kill nearly 6 million people each year, mostly in developing nations. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said $7 billion to $10 billion a year is needed to fight AIDS. The U.N. estimates that $2 billion is needed a year to fight TB and malaria.

As of December 2002, the fund had collected $2.15 billion in pledges from governments, corporations, foundations and individuals.

Controversy has swirled around it since its creation, with international agencies, governments and private groups arguing over who should control it and how it should operate.

More than 36 million people, the vast majority of them in Africa, today have AIDS or are infected with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.


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Information in this article was accurate in January 30, 2003. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.